Classic Meatballs

And now, for something thoroughly NOT wedding cake:


After spending the majority of last week baking more cake than many people bake in a lifetime, I’m celebrating this week by not baking anything sweet. No cookies, no cakes, no pies, nothin’. Instead, MEATBALLS.

These particular meatballs are a blend, primarily, of ground beef and ground pork. You can really mix and match any ground meats you like, or you can just use one variety. I’ve made excellent batches using only ground turkey, but beef and pork were in the freezer, so there you are. But contrary to their name, meatballs are not entirely meat. I daresay that every recipe I’ve seen suggests that bread crumbs are just as important as the meat itself.

Let’s actually talk about bread crumbs for a moment. Bread crumbs are incredibly easy to produce (if you have bread, you can make bread crumbs), but they have still managed to find their way onto the shelves of grocery stores in a consistency that often is not so much of crumbs as it is a fine dust. If you have fresh bread, a few minutes in the oven will crisp it enough that you can smash it into crumbs at whatever consistency you fancy. Or, if you have trouble making it through a baguette before it goes stale, as I always seem to do, you can grind that sucker up in the food processor for bread crumbs far more satisfying and probably more economical than the canisters at the store.

In addition to the bread crumbs, we’ll add some eggs, some parmesan cheese, and some seasoning to make our meatballs awesome.

Now you can really mix this up however you like, but as I stressed when making beef jerky some months ago, digging in with your hands is really the most effective means of mixing this quickly and well. You might as well, because you’re going to get your hands all meaty anyway to fashion the mixture into balls.

At the risk of prompting innuendo: you can make your meatballs whatever size you like. I tend to make lots of smaller, bite-size meatballs, while others may prefer fewer, larger ones. I find the smaller size easier to cook, as they more quickly cook all the way through by the time a brown crust has been achieved in the frying pan.

I’ve heard that you can bake meatballs as well, but as I mentioned, we’re not baking anything. Plus, the brown, pan-fried crust is one of the features of meatballs I find so appealing. So pan-frying it is!

Once they are done, these meatballs can be served in a variety of ways. You can eat them just as they are, stab them with a fork and dip them in ranch dressing, smother them with brown gravy Ikea-style, or my favorite, heaped atop a mound of spaghetti and tomato sauce.

Sheer, savory, not-anything-like-wedding-cake bliss.


Classic Meatballs
Adapted from Sarah W.

A Note on Yield: This recipe makes about 80 one-inch meatballs I like to cook about half of them (which will comfortably feed 4-6 people when served over pasta) and then freeze the remainder for another day. To freeze, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and freeze the meatballs so they are not touching one another. Once they are solid (it takes about 2 hours), you can bag them up for storage.

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 c bread crumbs
1/2 c parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp oregano
2-3 T olive oil

In a large, wide bowl, combine all ingredients except for oil and mix well, using your fingers or a fork. Working with small sections of the meat mixture, roll each section between your palms to create a ball about 1″ in diameter. Continue until the entire mixture has been rolled into balls.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until oil glistens and pan is hot. Add meatballs to pan to form a single layer, allowing a bit of space between the meatballs. Turn meatballs as the bottom side begins to brown, allowing a crisp exterior to form on as much of the meatball as possible, and until meatballs are cooked through. Remove meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess grease.

If serving meatballs over spaghetti, bring a pot of water to a boil while you are heating the oil in the frying pan. Add pasta and cook to al denté, usually about 7-8 minutes. Heat your favorite pasta sauce in a separate pan.

You can add the meatballs directly to the pasta sauce if you wish, but I prefer to place them on top of each plate of pasta & sauce. Garnish with parmesan cheese if desired.